Oct 11 – Worship Service – Thanksgiving

Oct 4 – Worship Service – World Wide Communion Sunday
October 5, 2020
Oct 18 – Worship Service – Sky
October 20, 2020

Oct 11 – Worship Service – Thanksgiving

Rev Lohnes

Sunday, October 11, 2020

   Thanksgiving Sunday

Words of Welcome

The Life and Work of Our Church

Please remember in your prayers this week all those named in our prayer jar.

The Salvation Army is now taking appointments for families seeking help at Christmas through the Christmas Hamper program.  If you know of someone who could use a helping hand at Christmas this year, please make sure they submit their name to Kathy at the Salvation Army.  The last day for appointments will be Thursday, November 26th.

Lighting the Christ Candle

As we light our Christ Candle this morning, let us remember that its light is not to one space or one gathering.  The light of Christ is with us everywhere.  So as we light our candle this morning, let us remember that we have been called and challenged to not only recognize Christ’s light wherever it shines but to take that light out with us wherever we go.

Acknowledgment of Territory

Wherever we are in this wonderful province of Nova Scotia, we are reminded that we still gather on lands that are, by law, the unseeded territories of the Mi’kmaq people.  We gratefully and respectfully acknowledge this.  We also respectfully honour their traditions and spirituality along with the spirituality and traditions of the Métis people with whom we also share this land.

Call to Worship

The world is filled with the glory of God, and we say thank-you; say it with me!
Thank you!
The hills and valleys are filled with colour, and we say,
Thank you!
The vines and trees are filled with fruit, and we say,
Thank you!
Our tables are overflowing with food, and we say,
Thank you!
Our life is filled with the love of family and friends, and we say,
Thank you!
We fill this house of God with our voices, saying,
Thank you!
And so in Thanksgiving and Joy, let us come before God in Thankful Worship.

Opening Prayer

Let us pray;

Divine One, we know that “Thank-you” can often be such an easy thing to say, but not always so easy thing to do.  Our words of thanks are not always reflected in our actions.  We offer our thanks for the bounty of your blessings, for health, for food, for friends and family.  But when health fails, when times are hard, or when friends and family are far away, we act as if we are being punished and we complain and ask why.  We offer thanks for the beauty of our earth, for soil, water, and air.  But when the earth, water, and air become polluted we blame others and lament our inability to do anything about it.  We give thanks that we can be here gathered in worship, but we are not always willing to take our worship out from this place and put it into action.  Forgive us when our actions deny our words.  Teach us to change our Thanksgiving into Thanks – Living.   Amen.

Theme Conversation/Learning Together

There is a story of a blind man who sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which read, “I am blind, please help.”

There were only a few coins in the hat – spare change from folks as they hurried past. One man walked by and then stopped. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. But then he asked the man if he could see the sign.  He took it, turned it around, and wrote some words on the back. Then he handed the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see what he had written.

Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind man. That afternoon, the man who had changed the sign returned to see how things were. The blind man recognized his footsteps and asked, “Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?”

The man said, “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way.” I wrote, “Today is a beautiful day, but I cannot see it.” Both signs spoke the truth. But the first sign simply said the man was blind, while the second sign conveyed to everyone walking by how grateful they should be to be able to see the beautiful day!

Hymn        We Plough the Fields                     #520

Scripture Readings

Our first reading tells of the promise that God has made through Moses to the people of Israel.  Moses promises that God has not forgotten them, but is bringing them into the Promised Land, a land of riches, abundant water and crops, and a land that they will be able to claim as their own.  But Moses also warns that the people must not forget God or forget all that God has done for them.  Reading from Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Psalm 65 reminds us that it is God that provides the crops, the livestock, and all the bounty for which we give thanks this day. When Paul wrote his second letter to them, the church in Corinth was already well established and flourishing.  Paul encourages the members of that church to be generous in their support of other new churches, which are just beginning, and to be generous in supporting the work Paul himself was doing.  In this passage Paul encourages the people not to give out of a sense of duty but to give with joy, telling them that, “God loves a cheerful giver.”  What a wonderful thought for Thanksgiving Sunday.  Reading from 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. As Jesus and some of his followers are traveling towards Jerusalem, a group of ten lepers approaches.  They call out to Jesus for help.  Jesus hears their cries and heals them, yet when they realize they truly are healed, only one returns to give thanks.  Reading from Luke 17:11-19

Are You the Thankful One?

Luke tells us a story about ten lepers who were healed by Jesus, yet he says that only one turned around and came back to offer thanks.  Our usual reaction to this story is to be quite appalled!  We know that there is absolutely no question that we would certainly return and offer our thanks.  But would we?  How much do we take for granted in our everyday lives and how often do we really remember to stop and offer thanks?

The ten lepers in Luke’s story did not have a great deal to be thankful for.  Because of their leprosy, they were outcasts and forced to live in isolation far away from their family and friends.  They were unable to obtain jobs, and they were avoided by anyone in polite society.  Kind of makes you think of living with COVID-19 doesn’t it!

But for lepers, there was no hope that things would ever change.  There was no vaccine on the horizon and they were forced to live with other lepers, people they often had nothing in common with except their disease.  They often traveled together in a group partly for companionship and mutual support but also for safety.  Because leprosy was such a horrible disease, people were terrified of anyone who might be infected.  If a leper came anywhere near them, people would often hurl more than insults at them in order to force them to stay away.  So when this group of ten lepers approached Jesus and began to shout to him, even from a distance, the crowd traveling with Jesus would have been extremely agitated.

It would have been bad enough if one leper to have gotten close enough to beg Jesus for healing, but when ten of them arrived together, people must have been horrified.  And these men knew how their presence would be interpreted.  They knew how hated they were and how great a risk they were taking by simply being there.  But they were desperate.  They were willing to take the risk.

At first, Jesus’s reaction seems a bit odd.  Without asking any questions or even approaching them, Jesus tells them to go and let the priest examine them.  And what may seem even more unusual to us is that the men immediately left to do exactly what Jesus said.

But what may seem unusual to us, is actually exactly what the people of the time would have expected.  The only way a leper would ever be allowed back into society as if the priest were to examine him and, finding no trace of lesions on his skin, were to declare him cured.  Without the priest’s OK it wouldn’t matter if they were cured or not. Only the priest could lift their social ostracism.  So this is why the 10 men immediately left Jesus and headed out to find the priest.

We are then told that, on their way, all ten of the men suddenly realized they had indeed been healed.  Exactly how they knew we are not told, but every one of them knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were no longer lepers.  Yet only one turned around and returned to Jesus to give thanks.

Now sometimes we tend to think that the other nine as simply ungrateful.  We might even wonder if they really were cured or if their ingratitude might result in the cure being rescinded before they got to the priests.  After all, if they couldn’t even bother to return and say thank-you, why should they receive the same gift of healing as the man who bowed down at Jesus’s feet and thanked him?

To top it all off, the man who did return was a Samaritan.  Even after being cured, even after going through all the required rituals to acknowledge that he was no longer a leper, this man would still be an outcast among the Hebrew people.  He was and would always remain a despised Samaritan.   Of any of the ten healed this man probably had the least to be thankful for, yet he is the only one who returned to give thanks.

But the nine who did not return did nothing wrong.  They followed Jesus’s instructions and ran to present themselves to the priests.  We are not told what happened next.  Perhaps one or more of them did return later to thank Jesus.  Perhaps one or more expressed their thanks in prayer in the temple or even at home.  Perhaps they simply didn’t express their gratitude out loud.  They may have returned to their families and shared the story of what had happened to them.  Some may even have become devoted followers.  Or perhaps they may have lived out their gratitude in the way they acted towards others after they had been healed.  And some may have just been happy to put the entire horrible experience behind them.  But regardless of how they may have reacted, why do we assume that the only one who was thankful was the one who comes back?

Today we set aside a time to say “Thank-you” but everyone will do this in a different way.  Usually on Thanksgiving people gather together to enjoy a big dinner of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, squash, or turnip, and let’s not forget the pumpkin pie.  Many would normally spend time around a table with family and friends, laughing and sharing stories and, of course, eating way too much.  But how many of us can honestly say that we would spend more than the briefest moment giving thanks to God?  We may say grace before we eat, and we may even stop for a brief moment to list how much we have to be grateful for, but the truth is that most of us would be far too focused on eating and enjoying ourselves to spend much time saying thanks to God.

This year the gatherings will probably be much smaller and there will be a lot of people who will not be able to gather with family at all.  For some people this will be a very difficult Thanksgiving as family members who would normally travel to be together are unable to do so.  And given the year we have had so far, some may even question what they have to be thankful for.

But why do we assume that expressing gratitude at Thanksgiving should be directly related to our ability to gather together and enjoy a good meal?  Why do we seem to think that the person who has the most material wealth should be the more grateful that the person who is financially struggling or that the person surrounded by family and friends should be more grateful than the person who is spending Thanksgiving alone?

Now I could sit down and give you a list of all the things that we should be thankful for in spite of, or perhaps even because of, COVID-19.  As a matter of fact, there are dozens of lists posted online of the good things that have happened because of the virus.  But the making of the list would kind of defeat the purpose of everything I have just said.

It’s not about listing the things that we have to be thankful for.  It’s about being thankful at the moment.  It’s about recognizing the things all around us that we have to be thankful for even when other things seem to be overwhelming us with less than positive realities.  It’s about being grateful that we can see the beautiful day outside when it happens, but also being grateful when a cloudy day brings much-needed rain.

Thanksgiving should not be about comparing our list of blessings to someone else’s and being grateful that our list is longer.  It should be about recognizing each tiny blessing as it happens and about remembering to give thanks.  If we can remember to do this, if we can remember what we have to be thankful for even if the most difficult of times, then our Thanksgiving truly can become Thanks-Living.  Amen.

Hymn        Sing to the Lord of Harvest                              #519

Prayer of Blessing (Gifts and Prayer Jar)

Let us take a moment to remember all the gifts that have blessed and enriched our lives and to think about the ways that we can use those gifts to enrich the lives of others …

Let us pray;

We thank you, God, for the earth and for the bounty that it yields.  We thank you for the rich share of this bounty that has been given to us.  We ask your blessing on the portion of your bounty that we offer today, praying that what we give of our time, our talents, and our treasures will make a difference.  Amen.

And now let us take a moment now to offer our silent prayers for all those named in our prayer jar and all those in our thoughts, our minds, and our hearts … Amen.

Minute for Mission

Prayers of Gratitude and Concern

We thank You, God, for everything we delight in – sunlight in autumn days, colour in nature and art, rhythm in poetry and music; human achievements and family success; good humour; rewarding work; love and friendship, and all your gifts to body and soul.  Most of all we delight in Your presence with us, the knowledge of Your love, the wisdom of your guidance, and the assurance that we are never alone.

We pray for those who work in harsh conditions and those who have no work;

those whose lives are drab and grey; those whose poor health takes away delight in living; those who are lonely; those who have no home or safe shelter.

Grant them the help and comfort which they need through the work of our hands and the work of others.  Grant them the encouragement and spiritual comfort which will enable them to live with hope and courage.

We pray for the complicated and often difficult world in which we live, where so many people seem to question what we have to give thanks for.  Open our hearts and our minds to true gratitude, acknowledging that in all things we are blessed by your presence, your guidance, and your encouragement to live with joy in your beautiful world.  On this Thanksgiving Day, may we all, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, recognize the blessings we receive each day and recognizing those blessings, give thanks.  May we continue to live in ways that express that, so that others may see reflected in us, the wonder and joy of living in the loving presence of God.  And so with all of this wondrous creation of which we are a part we offer our thanks and praise this day and always.  Amen.

Hymn        Praise God for the Harvest            #517

Sending Out

Enveloped in God’s Light, we go out from here to become a beacon to those in search of Light.  Sheltered in God’s Peace, we go out from here to offer shelter to those in need of peace.  Embraced by God’s Presence, we go out from here to be present to others.  So as we go out from here let us go in light, in peace and in love.  Let us go with God.

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